Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery with the Best Exercise Recovery Techniques

Rest and recovery after exercise is essential to muscle and tissue repair, strength building and subsequent performance. This is even more important after an intensive workout.

There are many types of recovery techniques that can impact perceived fatigue, muscle damage, and inflammatory markers after physical exercise.

These are the best methods. However, there is no best method for everyone. Choose a recovery modality that is best suited to your individual training schedules, preferences, facilities and equipment.

Get Adequate Sleep.  Optimal sleep is essential for anyone who exercises regularly. Sleeping is the body’s most natural way to take care of the recovery and provides time for the muscles to grow and repair.  Keep track of your sleep duration and quality and then assess and make a plan if necessary. So nap, sleep in or whatever it takes to get enough sleep.

Rest. Time is one of the best ways to recover. Your body has an amazing capacity to take care of itself if you allow it some time.

Avoid Overdoing Your Workout. One simple way to recover faster is by ensuring your workout is within your capacity and build up gradually to harder workouts. Trying to do too much immediately without a gradual progression for your body and muscle groups will limit your fitness gains from your workouts and undermine your recovery efforts.

Massage seems to be an effective method for reducing delayed onset muscle soreness and perceived fatigue. You can also try foam rolling self-myofascial release like shown here. Or use a massage stick.

Cooling Down means slowing down (not stopping completely) after exercise. Continuing to move around at a low intensity (gentle stretching or walking for instance) for 5 to 10 minutes after finishing your workout.

Replace Fluids You lose a lot of fluid during a long workout and ideally, you should be replacing it during the workout, and filling up after exercise is an easy way to assist  your recovery. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body and having plenty of water will improve every bodily function.

Eat Properly.  A long workout will deplete your energy stores, you need to refuel to replace this energy, repair tissues, get stronger and be ready for the next challenge. Ideally, you should get serious about pre-workout nutrition, eat during exercise and eat within 60 minutes of the end of your workout and make sure you include some high-quality protein (15-25 grams) and complex carbohydrate.

Fueling for Performance for Hiking and Mountaineering

Fueling Up to Maximize Your Workout Muscle Growth and Recovery

This nutrition advice was written for my professional ballet clients but is applicable to all athletes. If you would like additional personalized advice, contact me.

Stretch. After a tough workout, consider gentle stretching. This is a simple and fast way to help your muscles recover. Here is a 6 minute yoga stretch video performed by one of my interns.

Perform Active Recovery. Easy, gentle movement including low intensity walking improves circulation which helps promote nutrient and waste product transport throughout the body. In theory, this helps the muscles repair and refuel faster.

Take an Ice Bath, Ice massage or contrast water therapy (alternating hot and cold showers) may help recovery. If you are interested in exploring this further, look at some credible meta-analysis study articles.

Compression Garments may be beneficial to recovery process. The type, when to put them on, for how long depends on what type of exercise you do. If you are interested in exploring this further, look at some credible meta-analysis study articles.

Listen to Your Body. The main thing you can do to recover quickly is to listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, irritable, have a higher than normal resting heart rate, are sore or notice decreased performance you may need more recovery time or a break from workout altogether.

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Fueling Up to Maximize Muscle Growth and Recovery

What and when you eat makes a big difference in the quality of your workout, recovery and muscle growth. For the best post workout recovery techniques this blog.

What should you eat before you workout?

Eat a carbohydrate-protein combo snack before exercise and you’ll provide fuel for a stronger workout. You can have a snack size portion of the easy to prepare carb-protein recovery meals listed below.

Adding a cup of caffeine doesn’t hurt either. Caffeine mobilizes fatty acids for use as fuel during your workout (and spares valuable glycogen) and it lessens the perception of how difficult the workout is.

What should you eat and drink during exercise?

During exercise the primary goal for nutrient intake is to replace fluid losses. For most exercisers that simply means drinking water during their workout. For those endurance athletes participating in difficult events lasting more than ninety minutes they need carbohydrates at 30-60 grams per hour for maintenance of blood glucose levels. Although in events 2.5+ hour higher intakes (up to 90 g/h) are associated with better performance.

Why should you eat right after you workout?

There is a 2 hour post-exercise window of opportunity to optimally replace muscle glycogen, provide amino acids to repair and build muscles and ensure rapid recovery. Eat a carb-protein combination meal or snack as soon as tolerable after you exercise for optimal recovery. Include 15–25 g of high quality protein within 2 hours. “To date, dairy proteins seem to be superior to other tested proteins, largely due to leucine content and the digestion and absorptive kinetics of branched-chain amino acids in fluid-based dairy foods.”62

Some easy to prepare carb-protein recovery meals include:

  • Cereal and fruit with yogurt or milk
  • Glass of nonfat chocolate milk
  • Apple and peanut butter
  • Fruit smoothie made with yogurt or milk and some protein powder
  • Turkey sandwich with a piece of fruit
  • Yogurt with berries and granola
  • Bean soup with whole grain crackers and low fat cheese
  • Oatmeal with milk, raisins, and slivered almonds
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Scrambled or poached eggs on wholegrain toast
  • Fresh fruit and wholegrain toast with baked beans
  • Whole grain hot or cold cereal, raisins and milk topped with seeds
  • Potato, chicken breast and salad
  • Chili

How much protein should you eat to build muscles?

The ACSM Position Stand on Nutrition for Athletes: newer recommendations now highlight that the muscle adaptation to training can be maximized by ingesting these targets as 0.3 g/kg body weight after key exercise sessions and every 3–5 hours over multiple meals.

1.2- 2.0 grams per kilogram per day total

For those near their optimal body composition, don’t restrict calories while building muscles. With inadequate fuel, you’ll use protein for energy (calories), not for building muscles. That being said, for those who are not bodybuilders but who are working out to lose weight, your dietitian will help you calculate the correct amount of protein and caloric intake so that you will be able to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously.

A protein snack, particularly one with leucine, before bed can help overnight muscle protein synthesis by providing a flow of amino acids.

This essential amino acid is most well known as the amino acid needed to stimulate muscle growth. This is because it provides muscles with the nutrients and activates the growth pathways needed to synthesize. Specifically, its ability to stimulate skeletal muscle synthesis is ten times better than any of the other BCAAs.

High leucine foods include cheese, soybeans, beef, chicken, pork, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood, and beans. The recommended daily intake for leucine is 39mg per kilogram of body weight, or 17.7mg per pound.

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